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Commissary officials sensitive to beef concerns

by Staff Sergeant Randy Redman
photo by Staff Sgt. Randy Redman
A visit to the commissary this week will put any shopper looking for a nice cut of beef for this weekend elbow to elbow with just as many customers as during the previous months, if not more.

FORT LEE, Va. - Officials at the Defense Commissary Agency are closely monitoring the ever-changing situation involving a case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, also known as mad cow disease, identified Dec. 23 in a single cow in Washington state.

Since Dec. 23 the U.S. Department of Agriculture has conducted a limited recall of 10,000 pounds of beef that may originate from the infected cow and from cows slaughtered at the same time and location.

"No beef in any of our 275 commissaries worldwide has been involved in a USDA recall," said Col. Mark Wolken, chief of public health, safety and security for DeCA. "The USDA has stated that the U.S. beef supply is safe and that the beef recall resulted from an abundance of caution, not fear that the meat is infected. Should the USDA make a determination that there is a danger, DeCA would be first to react to protect the health of our customers," he said.

Since the first U.S. case of BSE was identified Dec. 23, commissary customers have raised questions about the safety of beef purchased at their local commissary. Questions range from "should I return the ground beef I bought last week?" to "has my commissary received meat from the infected cow?"

The answer to both questions is "no" said Colonel Wolken, an Army veterinarian.

At the commissary at MacDill Air Force Base, general manager Hector Grenado said most customers seem unconcerned.

"The sales in the meat department have been quite strong," he said, contributing the steady growth in sales to the fact that many people this time of year are trying to lose weight, and strict diets like Adkin's promote eating quite a bit of meat.

"As is always the case, customers who wish to return commissary products for a full refund may do so without question. The brain, spinal cord, and lower intestine - where the protein or 'prion' that is believed to cause BSE is found - is not generally used in food consumed by Americans," said Colonel Wolkien. "Those parts were removed from the infected cow before any of it could enter the meat supply."

USDA investigators have determined that the recalled meat went to a few commercial markets in Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana and Guam as well as Washington state, Oregon, California and Nevada.

"No commissaries received any of those shipments," Col. Wolken emphasized. "But I can certainly understand customers having concerns and questions. We're all affected by this - we're all concerned."




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